February 12, 2007

Mauer Through 2010

We're sadly still destined for two straight years of hearing and reading about how Johan Santana may leave Minnesota at some point, but for a while at least we've been spared from similarly premature talk about Joe Mauer's possible departure. Mauer and the Twins have agreed to a four-year contract that will keep him in Minnesota through 2010. The deal, which covers his three arbitration-eligible seasons and buys out his first year of free agency, is worth $33 million.

Mauer's deal isn't technically a four-year extension, because it only buys out one season that the Twins didn't already control. However, delaying Mauer's free agency for even one year is obviously very important and the contract provides the Twins with cost certainty should the market continue to rise like it did this winter. Mauer's agent, Ron Shapiro, told reporters Sunday that "there's not a player who belongs with the Twins more than Joe Mauer," while Terry Ryan gave the team's point of view:

We are pleased to have an agreement with one of Minnesota's brightest young stars. Joe has become one of the game's great young players on and off the field. He has a bright future with this organization and means a great deal to the people of Minnesota.

This is a good day for this organization, and I feel like it's one of those deals which is going to work for both sides. You have to be comfortable with how a player's going to respond to security. I don't think there's any question how Joe's going to respond to that. That's one of the good things about this situation. He is in awful good shape and showed it last year.

Under the terms of the deal, Mauer will receive $3.75 million in 2007, $6.25 million in 2008, $10.5 million in 2009, and $12.5 million in 2010. He had asked for (and probably would have received) $4.5 million in arbitration for 2007, and that total would likely have climbed to about $7 million in 2008 and around $10 million in 2009. That adds up to a total of $22 million, which means the Twins essentially bought his first year of free agency for something like $11 million.

There's little doubt that a healthy Mauer would go for a lot more than that on the open market in 2010, which makes it an excellent deal for the Twins. On the other hand, given his past knee problems and the physical demands of catching, there's some doubt that a healthy Mauer would have hit the open market in 2010, which is why taking $33 million in guaranteed money is always a smart move for a 24-year-old who enjoys playing for his current team.

As Ryan said, it's a deal that should work well for both sides, with the added bonus that breathless speculation about Mauer leaving as a free agent won't start up until at least mid-2009. Plus, locking Mauer up through 2010 is important, if only symbolically, because at some point you've got to think people will stop messing up the plan to have a new ballpark in place by then. If that ever happens and construction actually begins, Mauer will be the first player officially under contract for the new ballpark.

Joe Mauer | Catcher | DOB: 4/83 | Bats: Left | Draft: 2001-1

2001 18 RK 110 .400 .492 .491 0 8 19 10
2002 19 A- 411 .302 .393 .392 4 28 61 42
2003 20 A+ 233 .335 .395 .412 1 15 24 24
AA 276 .341 .400 .453 4 22 25 25
2004 21 MLB 107 .308 .369 .570 6 15 11 14
2005 22 MLB 489 .294 .372 .411 9 37 61 64
2006 23 MLB 521 .347 .429 .507 13 53 79 54

MINOR LEAGUE TOTAL 1055 .332 .407 .426 9 76 132 107
MAJOR LEAGUE TOTAL 1117 .321 .399 .471 28 105 151 132

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